Phillip W. Magness

Was Abolitionism a Free-Market Triumph?

The Economic Historian blog has a fascinating discussion at the moment on the “New History of Capitalism” (NHC) school of historiography, and its attempts to grapple with the economic dimensions of slavery. I’ve been extremely critical of the NHC literature on account of its anti-capitalist ideological skew and its misuse of historical evidence, most recently …

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Buchanan and the MacLean controversy in retrospect: 1.5 years later

It’s been about a year and a half since Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains hit the bookstore shelves. Having been deeply involved in the controversy that followed from her depiction of economist James M. Buchanan, I’m happy to report that one of the main products of my own research on the subject (co-authored with Art Carden and …

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Once more unto the breach

An unusual event happened last week at Middle Tennessee State University, the alma mater of economist James M. Buchanan. Attempting to capitalize on that connection, the MTSU philosophy and religious studies department invited Duke University historian Nancy MacLean to deliver an attack on Buchanan based upon her book Democracy in Chains. MacLean gave her standard speech on …

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Euphemizing Eugenics

The involvement of the early 20th century Progressive Movement with the racial pseudo-science of eugenics has only recently begun to receive a thorough and appropriately critical historical treatment. The reason for this late treatment likely derives from a polite reluctance to engage an ethical blot on the careers of several celebrated scholars and political figures …

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The problem with historical arguments from silence

Historical arguments from silence are a common feature of academic work. Originally a means of dealing with historical subjects where a weak or missing evidentiary record makes direct examination of an event impossible, arguments from silence instead draw inferences from what is not said or not recorded. For example, if a historical document neglects to …

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